I hate being put in a box – don’t you? Sitting in a dream-coaching class recently I became aware that I had spent most of my life escaping from boxes. As a child I constantly escaped from the box of working class poverty and mediocrity into a virtual box of fantasy literature (you think that virtual boxes were only marketed by Oracle in the 21st century – no, I had one as a child in the 60s.) In the 70s I escaped the box for real (I was going to be the creator, not the recipient of other people’s fantasies). Somehow I ended up in someone else’s box – until the 80s when a fortuitous job offer allowed my husband and myself to escape yet again into a socio-political arena where lots of people were smashing lots of boxes. Apartheid was one of them. People ask me why we never returned to England? (“Was it the weather?” South-Africans-born who try to settle in Europe are often beaten back by the cold and greyness.) Honestly no, but there is something about the openness of an African sky which mirrors an openness of soul – this is the place where I found the freedom to change. To be me. Perhaps any serious amount of travel (actually living not visiting in another culture) is expansive in this way, though I do think South Africa has a particular handle on the art of re-inventing yourself.
When I began to write the dream list (I started at the beginning, as any good story teller would) I realized that the number of dreams I have lived, the number of places I have been, is more than double the number of things I still want to do, the places I am still desperate to go. And not many of them have been written off as ludicrous. (I have relinquished the idea of jumping out of a plane on my own, after I almost killed myself and the instructor on a paraglide in New Zealand. I will almost certainly pull the wrong cord – so I am waiting until I am at least 80 when it will be respectable to go tandem again.) So I don’t think it’s a total cop-out to find delight in helping other people to dream – I am astounded by how hard it is for some people to dream. I am grieved that life has pounded them so badly that they just want to hibernate, that freedom is a scary not a tantalizing prospect.
When I was a child it was considered an act of charity, if you found a bedraggled hedgehog snuffling round a pile of dead leaves towards the end of autumn, to furnish the poor creature with a nice dry box full of newspapers where it could happily hibernate until spring. All well and good, but don’t forget to let the hedgehog out when the frost has passed and bluebells are peeping through the crusty soil – with a slice of bread and saucer of milk to send it on its merry way. It won’t thank you. It will trundle off. People are a bit like that – sometimes they are grateful for a box to shelter from the worst of winter, but don’t forget to let them go again in spring. It feels like a spring season – time to get out of the box and start to dream again.